End of Season Whale Watching in Maui

Mother and calf swim next to our boat

From December through March thousands of humpback whales make the warm waters between Maui, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe their home. The first ones usually arrive from their arctic feeding grounds sometime in November and the last stragglers are gone by the end of April. While they’re here they mate, calve and, for months on end, do not eat. (Big exception – the calves who gain 100 pounds or more per day on their mother’s milk!) During much of the time the whales put on great displays clearly visible from the shore and awe inspiring close up. We often take binoculars to the beach to get the best views.

The photos in this post were taken in early April after the most spectacular displays of breaching and fin slapping were over. Nonetheless, we saw lots of whales on a beautiful pristine day.

Coast Guard regulations prohibit boats approaching whales closer than 100 yards, but some whales seem not to have read the regs. When a boat cuts its motor and drifts, a whale or two – like the mother and calf in the picture above – will sometimes come close to investigate. We were told that the mother will usually place herself between the calf and boat so we were lucky to get a picture like this. The calf was literally not more than 20 feet away. (Click on the picture to make it bigger so you can see the detail.)

Small pod passing by

There are many whale watching cruises – we took one by the Pacific Whale Foundation. The crew was knowledgable and the trip great fun.

In addition to the highlight of the mother and calf swim-by we saw lots of spouting and tail flukes like this small pod in the photo to the left.

South Maui Snorkeling – Ulua Beach

Snorkeling at Ulua Beach is convenient, easy, and fun. Less than seven minutes south of Maui Vista, Ulua/Makapu Beach is well marked on the Wailea/Makena road. If you see The Shops at Wailea, you’ve gone too far.

Ulua Beach is VERY popular. Parking has been expanded recently, but in high season you still may circle and wait for a parking space if you get there at the wrong time. (Early morning or around lunch time – when people are leaving – are good times.)

Ulua Beach has everything except high surf. There’s good parking, restrooms, outdoor shower, wonderful sandy beach, shade, sun, and good snorkeling. There is often a knowledgeable person from The Pacific Whale Foundation on the beach at the bottom of the walkway. He/she can answer almost any question you might ask about the beach, snorkeling, and what you see when you’re out in the water. Look for the cardtable and display. The Pacific Whale person usually has coral-friendly sunscreen you can use for free. (The oils in most sunscreens can damage the coral.)

It’s common to see LOTS of snorkelers at Ulua Beach. The reef and coral is by the rocks at the north end of the beach. It’s not hard to tell where to go – just follow everyone else. You can see the rocks jutting out into the water in the picture above. Snorkel near these rocks (but not too close). The farther out you go, the better it gets. Out a ways, the coral is very nice and there are a variety of colorful reef fish – mostly on the small side. If you’re lucky you may see a green sea turtle or a moray ell. The latter are not friendly. In the unlikely event you see one, consider yourself lucky but keep your distance.

Stay away from the rocks, watch the surf’, don’t touch the coral, and don’t step on the sea urchins! (We have a friend who did – not a pretty sight.)

If you’re a good swimmer and experienced snorkeler, try snorkeling from Ulua Beach to Mokapu Beach. Just go out toward the end of the reef and keep turning right. The only thing between Mokapu Beach and Ulua Beach is the narrow reef. Have a GREAT time!

Paddle Board Dog at Charley Young Beach

Paddle boarding – it’s so easy your dog could do it.

Maybe you didn’t bring your dog, or your paddle board to Maui. You can rent a board at places all over the island. (Sorry, no surfing dogs for rent – at least that we know of.)

The closest place to Maui Vista for paddle board rental is Maui Wave Riders at the south end of Kalama Park. They give lessons too. Some people surf with paddle boards. You can watch them off the park – particularly in the morning. Others just paddle around – with or without their dog.

The best time to go is in the morning when there’s not much surf and the winds are calm. It’s not hard. But unless you really know what you’re doing, please don’t try to do what you see those little specks way out in the ocean do. That would be a bad place to be caught in a big wind. Use common sense and you’ll have lots of fun. If you’re lucky, you might even paddle with a turtle or two!

Castles in the Sand on Charley Young Beach

There’s a lot of construction down on Charley Young Beach. But don’t worry, the builders and their tools aren’t likely to disturb you. Most of the “projects” range from modest to completely random. But then, what can you expect from a six year old?

Occassionally, however, the inspiration and perspiration combine to make something memorable – albeit temporary. Here the whole family has gotten into the act. Pretty ambitious if you ask me!

While the construction noise probably won’t ruin your day, watch out for what creeps out of the deep!

Frank Lloyd Wright and the King Kamehameha Golf Club

As you approach the building on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains, the silhouette of the King Kamehameha Golf Club clubhouse might remind you of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Marin County (California) Courthouse. However, if you thought the clubhouse is a derivative of the Marin County design, you’d be mistaken. The clubhouse has an interesting history that long predates the Marin County building.

The 75,000 sq ft clubhouse evolved from unrealized plans for a 7,000 sq ft luxury home for a couple in Forth Worth Texas in 1949. Two years later, Wright enlarged and adapted the design for another client, this time in Mexico for a site on the cliffs above Acapulco. Again, the house was never built. In 1957, he once more adapted the design for none other than Marilyn Monroe and her third and final husband Arthur Miller. Because of this, the clubhouse is sometimes called the “the Marilyn Monroe house.” The next year, before the house could be built, Monroe’s marriage to Miller ended in divorce. Wright died in 1959 and never saw the building except on paper and in his fertile mind.

Of course there is a huge difference between a large house and a 75,000 sq ft clubhouse, so much of the design is actually by Taliesan Architects who inherited the original concept and drawings from Wright. Nonetheless, the much expanded building includes many elements by the master himself – including a lovely staircase, expansive art glass, and an amazing elevator door. The overall design concept was preserved by putting two thirds of the expansion underground.

Seen from the entry on the Mauka side (literally the “mountain side” or “toward the mountains”) all resemplance to the Marin County Courthouse falls away.

Outside the front entrance is a 7 foot bronze statue, The Conch Blower, by Maui artist Dale Zarrella. Legend has it that the Pu (shell) of Waikapu could only be blown by warriors of particular merit. They say the shell’s call could be heard in Hana, 50 miles away. Those warriors must have had some powerful lungs!

Additional works of art by Dale Zarrella and other Maui artists can be seen inside the clubhouse, elsewhere on the grounds, and by visiting the golf club’s website (see link below).

Oh yes – you can golf too. While King Kamehameha Golf Club is Maui’s only private 18-hole course, you can buy a “guest for the day” pass and enjoy a round of golf in a spectacular setting.

To learn more about the King Kamehameha Golf Club – the Frank Lloyd Wright design, the club’s art collection and golfing opportunities – visit their website at http://www.kamehamehagolf.com/ To see our other posts about Dale Zarella, click here or, for a little wimsy, here.

Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula

Located at 9232 Kula Highway, Grandma’s is one of those destinations reached more by curiosity than intent. It’s past the cut-offs to Haleakala National Park and the Lavender Farm but before you get to the Tedeschi Winery and long before you get to Hana by the back way.

From the outside Grandma’s looks like a hole in the wall; but behind that humble facade is some of the best coffee and desserts you’ll find on Maui. In fact, Grandma’s coffee may be one of the best coffees anywhere. (Note: this is from a guy born and raised in Seattle where coffee is either an obsession or an addiction. I can still remember the first time I sipped fresh-roasted Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee on a trip to the Carribean 30 years ago. Grandma’s coffee is in the same class.) Since 1918, four generations of the same family have been growing, hand-picking, and roasting organic coffee on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala. They even have a few coffee plants growing next to their outdoor seating.

Grandma’s also serves breakfast and lunch. Once, when we were there with friends, there was live music in the outside seating area – a guy with a good guitar and nice voice. Another claim to fame is that Oprah has a home nearby and occassionally drops by. At least that’s what we were told. If I were you I wouldn’t go there just for the chance of seeing Oprah. I’d go there for the tiramisu. Check out this beauty. And how about that cool table?

Want to learn more about Grandma’s? You can even have some of their great coffee shipped to you on the mainland by visiting their website at http://www.grandmascoffee.com/homepage.html.

Perhaps a pound of Grandma’s coffee is too expensive for your taste. Fly to Maui (and stay at our condo!) At Grandma’s a latte or other coffee drink is no more expensive than at your local Starbucks. And believe me, those young ladies working at Grandma’s know how to pull an espresso!

Stillwell’s Bakery & Cafe – a Local Favorite

Stillwell’s Bakery & Cafe at 1740 Kaahumanu Ave, Wailuku has fabulous pastries, cakes, pies, breakfasts and lunches. It’s not handy to Maui Vista, but, if you’re in the Kahului/Wailuku area it’s a great stop for a treat or a morning/mid-day meal. Check out the pastries in the photo!

We’ve never had breakfast there but, if the breakfasts are as good as the lunches, you won’t be disappointed.

Stillwell’s is easy to miss. Look for their sign on the right as you go up the hill to Wailuku – it’s just before the old overpass that I think of as the gateway to Wailuku. After enjoying your lunch or treat, go next door to Mele Ukulele and check out their fine crafted instruments. (See our blog about Mele Ukulele too!)

Mele Ukulele!

Mele Ukulele, at 1750 Kaahumanu Ave, Wailuku, is a joy. The walls are lined with ukuleles from affordable to professional show-stopping hand-crafted beauties. The shop is well marked but small and easy to miss. Just remember that as you drive uphill toward Wailuku on Kaahumanu, it’s on your right (almost next door to Stillwell’s) just before you go under the only overpass in Maui.

If you’re lucky, there will be some old timers (or young prodogies) testing some of their favorite instruments. Even if you never expect to buy a ukulele, if you’re in the area, stop by and savor the beauty of fine craftsmanship. As you can see from our photo, there are friendly welcoming people there. You won’t regret it.

To learn more about Mele Ukulele, check out their website at www.meleukulele.com

Free slack key guitar festival on Maui

Every June, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahalui hosts a free concert of slack key guitar. This year (2012) it’s on June 24. The event starts at 1:00 and goes until 7:00 in the evening. As the day goes on the performers get better and better. At the beginning you might hear school groups. Later there are talented young people perhaps performing with their teacher/mentor. By late afternoon/evening there are terrific professionals playing the finest classics of Hawaiian slack key.

Bring your lawn chair (there are 4 in our condo) and hang out. Limited beverages and snacks are available for sale but you can also bring a picnic basket (use our cooler!) and enjoy your own at no cost.

If you’re on the island at the right time, this is a MUST SEE.

There are lots more events and activities at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Check out their website for additional information at http://www.mauiarts.org/

Saturday morning tennis social at Maui Vista

Maui Vista is a great place for tennis players of all ages and abilities. Here’s a picture from a Maui Vista “Tennis Social.” Loosely organized by Tennis Pro Ricardo every saturday morning, usually two or more tennis courts are filled with doubles teams playing abbreviated sets (best out of 4 games with a shortened tie-breaker if necessary). After a second round where winners play winners and losers play losers, Richardo mixes up partners to create new teams to play against one another. A great way to meet new people on your vacation while having fun playing tennis!

Our Maui Vista 2418 condo comes with four tennis rackets for guests to use. There are six courts that open at 8:00 am every day. No court reservations – it’s first come, first serve. If interested, you can check out a tennis court key at the front office. (NOTE: there’s a $20 refundable deposit for the key.)